RCPD Officer uses distrust from youth to inspire trust for the future

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - Walking through the halls of Manhattan High School's east campus, Riley Co. Police Officers Tyrone Townsend gives fist bumps and high fives.

"I usually stop and say hi," Townsend says of his rounds as a school resource officer. "It's just as fun as a rollercoaster."

When the lunch bell rings, it's more of the same. Greeting students as they walk through the door, it seems he's on a first-name basis with nearly all of the young people.

He says that's by design.

"A lot of my job doesn't really get on the screen as far as calls for service," he said. "It's more of, 'Hey, uhh, Tyrone - I got something to talk to you about at home. Can I shut the door?' And we just sit here and we talk, we chop it up."

His goal is to give these students a positive view of police - unlike how he felt growing up.

"Growing up in KCK, I just didn't have a very good view of police," he said.

The reason goes back to 1990, when his father, Tyrone Townsend, Sr., was shot and killed by Kansas City police after robbing a pizza store.

"That pretty much changed me, that would define a lot in my life," he said. "(It was) the reason why I had a negative view towards police."

He says it's a view many young people share.

"The only time they see a police officer is when they're taking mommy and daddy to jail. How you think they're gonna feel about police officers? I've been on both sides and a lot of it is when we grew up we just didn't trust the police. But a lot of it was, we didn't interact with the police," he said.

Today, Townsend works to change that and inspire the change he found i himself.

"Eventually, I was able to kinda come to the conclusion that I wanted to, you know, make the best out of the situation and become a police officer myself," he said.

So far, his friendly methods have worked. He's earned the trust of many of his students.

"They'll say things like 'Well, Tyrone you're not like the other officers,' or 'I just only want to talk to you,' and they feel really comfortable around me," Townsend said. "I let them know that if I'm not there then they can always come to the police. Their sense of fear from police, at least on my level, is just almost gone."